The 2010 Census recorded Marietta with 42.3 percent homeowners, up a few points from the 2000 Census of 37.6 percent homeowners.
“We’re so far behind the national average,” Tumlin said. “The national average I believe is 62 percent (homeowners) in most smaller cities.”
City Manager Bill Bruton said the Council adopted a two page “vision statement” in 2002 that spells out the future goals of the city. An action plan accompanies the vision statement and lists a series of steps in which to accomplish the vision. One of these steps is increasing homeownership to 50 percent.
Increasing the homeowner ratio brings balance, Tumlin said.
“We have a better balance both for our school system, our tax digest, our quality of life, people aren’t as transient, there’s more stability, usually they are higher wage earners that come with residential houses,” he said.
The vision also lets developers who plan to do business with the city know what the ground rules are.
“In fairness to people that might be seeing Marietta as a chance for apartments, this will let them know ahead of time,” Tumlin said. “It’s fair to them, and to me it’s encouraging residential builders to come in.”
There are a number of stalled developments in the city from the Great Recession whose site plans have already been approved by the Council. For developers who want to revise those site plans by increasing density, the vision statement also sends a message to them.
“It is already in concrete that we want residential homes,” Tumlin said. “It just reinforces that this Council will probably stick with those site-based plans. Even though times have changed a little bit our goals have not.”
Last year, Walton Communities purchased Meeting Park, the 12-acre property near Marietta Square that was hailed as the cornerstone of the city’s downtown development efforts until the economy crashed and it entered foreclosure.
Barry Teague, one of Walton’s owners, wants to build some apartments on the site.
Councilman Grif Chalfant said he’s on the side of the mayor in wanting to see the city’s apartment ratio go down rather than up.
Speaking of Teague’s proposal to add more apartments, Chalfant said, “That’s a hard sell. It’s making us go the other way. It’s not pursuing the objective that we want.”
An argument made against apartments is that while they may initially be a nice place to live, they deteriorate over the years, ending up as a drain on surrounding property values, the school system and police force.
Take for example the blighted apartment corridor of Franklin Road, Chalfant said.
“When I got out of college — I graduated from Georgia in ’69 — that was one of the best places around,” Chalfant said. “You’ve got to look at the project, not what it is right now, but how will it be five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now.”
Randy Weiner, vice chairman of the Marietta Board of Education, said he wouldn’t stop at 50 percent homeownership but increase the goal to 60 percent.
Enrollment for Marietta City Schools, at 8,338, is already 250 more students than last year.
“There’s no empty classrooms in any of our schools. An additional high density development would lead to additional classroom space needed. So we would have to build additions to our existing schools, possibly a new school if we had significantly more density with enrollment going up. From my perspective of being on the BOE, we don’t need additional high density developments in Marietta City,” Weiner said.
But the argument isn’t just about a lack of space in the schools, Weiner added.
“High mobility is pretty much tied to high poverty, and when you have high poverty situations it does lead to special services, Title I services, other services to catch the kids up,” he said. “You’re getting re-acclimated to a new school environment, new teacher, and it just slows down the learning process especially when it happens more than once throughout the year, and typically that’s what happens.”
By contrast, a higher percentage of homeowners provides for a more stable student population, cutting down on the number of students entering and exiting the system throughout the school year, he said.